Exploring new vistas of cooperation

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Oman-India bilateral trade remained buoyant in 2018, with the total volume touching $5.2bn from January to November. Excerpts from an interview with HE Munu Mahawar, the Ambassador of India to the Sultanate

How did Oman-India bilateral trade progress in 2018?

Economic and commercial relations between India and Oman are a key pillar of India-Oman Strategic Partnership. India and Oman are important trading partners for each other. Bilateral trade remained buoyant in 2018 with volume of bilateral trade reaching $5.2bn for the period January-November 2018. India is among top source of Oman’s imports as well as destination for Oman’s non-oil exports. India imports significant quantities of fertilizers and minerals from Oman.

Which are the major sectors and opportunity areas for economic cooperation between India and Oman?

Given the complementarity of the two economies, there is a great scope for enhancing bilateral trade and mutual investments between India and Oman. India has always been a partner in Oman’s growth story and we are willing to partner with Oman in the areas prioritised by the Government of Oman under its Tanfeedh Programme. India and Oman can expand cooperation and partnership in areas like food security, space applications, minerals and mining, renewable energy, tourism, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, training and skill development.

Oman and India saw high level bilateral visits in 2018, including the visit of Indian Prime Minister to Oman. Could you please share details of these visits and their outcome?

The visit of our Prime Minister to Oman in February 2018 was very successful and it has provided a strong momentum to India-Oman bilateral relations. New areas of cooperation were identified and several agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed for bilateral cooperation in various areas, including health, tourism and space. On invitation of our Prime Minister, a group of about 30 entrepreneurs from Oman visited India in May 2018 to explored business opportunities in India. Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, visited Oman in July 2018 to co-chair the India-Oman Joint Commission Meeting and Joint Business Council Meeting along with the Minister of Commerce and Industry of Oman. A comprehensive review of bilateral economic and commercial relations was done during the meetings. From Oman, Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs visited India in September 2018. Recently, in January 2019, a large delegation from Oman participated at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit.

How can the strong people-to-people connect between India and Oman be tapped for exploring new opportunities in sectors such as tourism and medical tourism?

Thanks to millennia old people-to-people linkage between India and Oman as well as presence of a large Indian community in Oman, Indians are familiar with Oman and Omanis are familiar with India. People of Oman are aware of the various attractive tourist destinations in India as well as availability of top-class medical services in India at affordable costs. Naturally, India has emerged as a preferred destination for tourism, including medical tourism, for Omanis.

Introduction of e-visa system, has further eased the process of obtaining visa and facilitated travel to India. I am happy to inform that the Government has recently decided to further liberalise the e-visa regime. We will now issue one-year, multiple-entry visas electronically. Similarly, Oman is becoming an increasing popular among Indian tourists.

What are the major developments with regards to Oman-India Joint Investment Fund in 2018?

Oman-India Joint Investment Fund has launched Fund II with the target corpus of $300mn and has announced has announced first closure at $220mn. Fund II is being invested in India in various sectors including finance, automotive, and lifestyle.

What initiatives were taken by the Embassy of India in Oman and Your Excellency to further socio-cultural relations between the two countries and its people?

The Embassy organises various activities spread throughout the year aimed at promotion of socio-cultural exchange between India and Oman. Embassy also extends support to various Indian social groups, including Indian Social Club Oman, in organising various cultural programmes.

Yoga is being popularised in Oman. Embassy celebrates International Day of Yoga on 21 June every year and in 2018, over 5000 people participated in the celebration. The Embassy also organised a big event to launch two-year long celebrations to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We are also promotinggreater exchanges among the youth.